Pop Montreal

CMM! Cover Story: How to Do Music Conferences

Thrilled to announce the cover feature article I worked on the topic of music education and how to make the most of music conferences is now available on newstands across Canada!  It’s about 10 pages long, so lots to be learned.

I interviewed festival managers, bookers, producers, publicists, artist managers and more to get a full representation of all the best advice for indie/DIY musicians. There’s also an article on how you can make a music conference happen in your own town.

Pick it up now or read it online HERE.

(P.S. I’ve got the May/June feature as well- stay tuned!)

My cover April

How to Not be a Dick at Showcases

  1. Show up on time.  If you are playing another show the same day the promoter should be made aware well in advance.  Don’t expect there to be a clear path for your load in if a band is already playing since you are late. Wait between sets or ask about an alternative load-in entrance.
  2. Don’t expect special treatment. To quote Sophia Amuruso, “You are not a special snowflake”.  Chances are there are hundreds of bands playing from all over the world. Urgent things like trying to sort out their visas, electrical adapters, or lost gear may take priority for the promoter.  You’re all good enough to get offered a spot on this showcase.  Rock it.
  3. Reply to emails in advance but more importantly READ all of them and make sure to communicate that info to the rest of your band. E.g. Set-time, load-in time. Don’t assume everyone knows what’s up unless you have management, in which case, that’s their role to communicate with you the important, non-mundane details.
  4. Don’t expect finding parking to be easy.  Ask about it instead of pissing off promoters.  Sports games (hello, world cup), summer street festivals can all come into play.
  5. Don’t play a 15 minute sound check if there is a no-sound check policy, or 4 other bands that want to do so an hour before doors open.
  6. Don’t ask for more than your allotted guestlist limit, if there is one. If there’s an important media person or photographer you’re expecting to show, the showcase folks probably already have been in touch.
  7. Don’t take over another band’s merch space unless asking. Same goes for touching other bands’ gear.
  8. Don’t say shitty things about the venue space.  There could be special event staff there to help that are not as familiar with the space.  Be patient, not condescending.
  9. Don’t criticize the festival or promoters that have booked you. Their reps are urrrywurrr with social media in their pocket.
  10. Don’t be rude.  Don’t let your band members be rude. Don’t let your management be rude. Don’t let anyone associated with you be a dick. This is a simple one, but damn, there’s horror stories I could tell you.  It reflects badly on the whole team.
  11. Don’t expect free drinks and for that matter, don’t drink too much if you are offered stuff on the house.
  12. Be prepared to play at your exact set-time. Don’t show up late. Don’t play an encore if that’s not allowed.
  13. Don’t try to change your place on the line-up to accommodate late friends.
  14. Set your expectations of being “discovered” aside and just play a damn good show for everyone there, be it 5 people or 5,000.
  15. Say thank you and mean it.

Canadian Music Week 2014 Photos- Stars, July Talk, ATCR, Operators…

There are so many thank-you notes and emails that must be sent after the whirlwind that was the last week in Toronto at Canadian Music Week.

However, because Ottawa Rock Lottery is upon me essentially meaning this is my busiest week of the year photos will have to suffice for now.

Big shout-out to Audio Blood and the amazing support team that put on Canadian Music Week. I learned so so much and met some incredible industry and artists that I’m truly looking forward to working with in the future.  Also Amanda Palmer is my new personal hero.


A Tribe Called Red at Google Play launch

casie stewart

The inimitable blogger/socialite Casie Stewart

kevin drew and I

Kevin Drew and I had a moment

kevin drew

Kevin Drew and Stars talking about “Good Sex.”



rob moir

Ran into old friends and new (Rob Moir and Underground Operations)

ladies of the canyon

Diana at the Drake Underground (not pictured, members of Stars, Halfmoon Run and Metric who were also in attendance.)
the socials

Barrie’s The Socials at Johnny Jacksons. Really Gaslight Anthem feel.

bathroom grafitti

Wisdom from Almost Famous @ Hardluck Bar


Jian Ghomeshi interviewing DeadMau5 (minus the helmet)

hat shop show

Secret show in a Haberdashery on Queen St. West

pkew pkew pkew

Pkew Pkew Pkew at Silver Dollar


My job over the 3 day conference. Social media screens!

old james

Old James at Cadillac Lounge

team ab


Operators (ex-Handsome furs Wolf Parade- and yes, they played Shine a Light with Japandroids!)

cmw wall

I became a rock and roll machine.


Yellerkin at Dakota

july talk

July Talk covering Nirvana at the Come as You Are fundraiser at The Great Hall

stars cmw

My favourite band ever Stars in an intimate industry-only showcase for the launch of Google Play. They were joined by Kevin Drew of BSS.

bruce cockburn

8 Ways to Write the Perfect Music Festival Application

Applying for festivals as an unsigned band is a lot like applying for the perfect job- you gotta tailor your resume, make sure it’s up to date, and basically tell the recruiter, they’d be crazy to hire anyone else!  While it’s too late to apply for SXSW, NXNE applications are open until January 31.

How to be successful:

-          Give yourself time to write it!  Promoters can tell when it’s rushed

-          Don’t just copy and paste your band bio from your last album

-          Recent band photos (if someone is no longer in the band, get new ones ASAP)

Include your most recent press

-          Be it pull-quotes or entire articles, make sure you can list all the outlets that have covered your band and good things they’ve said about you

Avoid clichés

-          No brooding band photos (looking down with hair covering your face is so ’03)- make sure the photo reflects YOUR band’s originality

-          Avoid extreme metaphors, “We’re the best band since Pink Floyd!” Calling yourself the best without press quotes or figures to back it is just a waste of time and good promoters/industry can see right through it by looking at your most recent tour dates

-          Be genuine but concise

Talk shop

-          Talk about how this festival or showcase appearance fits into your plan for 2014.  This could mean you’re already working with X booking agent or promoter for a 5+ tour date in promotion of X album/video/charitable cause.  There’s got to be some momentum behind you!  If you’re just applying to sound cool and list that showcase on your “resume,” it’s not got the same appeal.  Just like a resume show the steps you’re taking for your career growth.

Up your social media presence game

-          Keep your website up to date (I’m looking at all you bands that think that FB alone is good enough)

-          Don’t just tweet about yourselves- talk to your fans

-          Post photos of your rehearsals for consistent web content creation

-          Make a quick Vine or Instagram video of a sneak peek song and ask their POV

Choose your strongest songs

-          This could be the single that was on the radio last year or demo but instinctively from live shows you should know what is the strongest (the one that is most purchased on Itunes/Bandcamp is also a great indicator

-          If you’re writing a new album and have some demo’s you’re really happy with, include them but make notes on how they fit into the bigger structure

If you have a ton of friends and followers, include that number in the application

If it’s impressive, include the highest viewed Youtube link and/or number

All of this advice could be easily transferable to grant writing for your own band.  Now what are you waiting for?

Festival Lessons ’13

I just got back from TIFF and realized that since June I’ve attended 9 big festivals.  Fringe Festival, Field Trip Fest, NXNE, JazzFest, Bluesfest, Osheaga, Folk Fest, TIFF < that was my summer in a nutshell!  No wonder I don’t know where it’s gone to!  So now that the air’s getting cooler outdoor festivals are sending us indoors for intimate shows I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned.

TIFF- Swap the wellies for high-heels at TIFF and look like you belong on the red carpet when you grab cocktails after the films so you can casually bump into Taylor Swift and become her new BFF.  Or just brunch at the Drake and watch all the publicists prepare their days.  Arrive to the screenings early.

NXNE- Sleep when you’re dead. Eat well.  Skip the energy drink boosters unless at a sponsored energy-drink event or you will crash and miss the Spice Girl’s Tribute band playing at 3 a.m.  Be prepared to wake up in whatever you went out in at 8 a.m. so girl, you better wear waterproof eyeliner.  The disheveled rock star look becomes more attractive with each sleepless night that makes for perfect hair.

Field Trip- I wish this happened every year.  Arts and Crafts created the most perfect one-day festival filled with the most joyful music fans ever.  Bring Kleenex to wipe tears while watching BSS play Lover’s Spit.  Brush your teeth because infectious smiling like this happens only so often between strangers.

Fringe- Wear whatever you like and speak in whatever language you like, even if it’s a made up one only you understand and you will be embraced by everyone.  Also, wherever there is wine, you will find artists from around the world ready to tell you their life story.

JazzFest- There is no one definition of jazz.  Lawnchair viewers will not move for anyone and David Byrne will seek out cool indie rock shows in your neighbourhood the next day so if a friend tweets he’s at your show, he is!

FolkFest- Dress warmly.  Sweaters and wool blankets are always de rigeur when the leaves change colour.  You can always buy hot tea, but cold beer is best sipped cuddling under blankets.

Osheaga – Oh it’s going to rain.  Rain hard.  Rain briefly.  You’re going to get soaked.  Or you’re going to get sprayed in the face with a jet of water when it gets too hot while watching Stars.  And buy their merch early because it sells out quickly.  And accommodations. Heck, just book everything far in advance as people are coming in from all over for this killer boutique festival.

Bluesfest- If you live in Ottawa, pace yourself.  You will get a Bluesfest hangover once it is over.  You will be confused and wondering what to do when you can’t hear Axle Rose screaming from your front door.  If you do go out dancing/drinking after a day of Bluesfest you’re going to pay for it the next day.

One more word of advice applicable to the above:  eat well and work out to prepare your body for festival season, not to look hot but to be able to survive! So much yoga was done over here and snacks always tucked into festival gear.

We’re gearing up to be involved in the Ottawa International Film Festival October 2-6 as I will be a celeb judge at the Music Video Challenge on October 6 at Mansion at 8 p.m.  RSVP here.

Before the snow hits we’ll be hitting up Pop Montreal next week and Halifax Pop in October!  Say hi to us in person or on Twitter!